(We did this interview the year Doon brought her solo show to the Edinburgh Fringe)
Doon Mackichan, Actress, Comedienne
b. 9th august 1962
Age inside: 30
My age inside is 30. At 30, I was coming out of quite a bad relationship. I was stuck in an urban nightmare, living in an awful council flat with some guy, on a street of four lane traffic. I was just about to buy a house with the wrong person, and I got out of it, got out of this malfunctioning relationship, by the skin of my teeth.
I got to go down to Chichester, to do a play, and that meant travelling down there through nature, and thinking, ‘Christ, there’s fucking trees!’ I’d been stuck on this awful estate. Driving, driving, driving down there, and doing this wonderful play and having a lovely summer fling with an actor, and being out of the box and getting all my friends, my best, closest, most lovely people around on my thirtieth birthday, and thinking, ‘Right! I know now that I am passionate about nature and I have to be near trees and water.’
I remember lying on the beach thinking, ‘This isn’t just because I’m having an affair with someone else.’ I’ve never done that. I’ve never been disloyal to someone in that way. It was really weird to think, wait, I need to be happy and have children with someone. I was probably so ready to have children, but not with anyone that was there. Suddenly I had a sense of self, a sense of going forward.
When that comes to you it’s like a little key going in. Nature was the trigger. I was almost euphoric, in a way that I can’t ever remember being before. Though I grew up on a farm when I was 12, 13, 14, I didn’t really understand my connection to nature then. All I wanted to do was stand in phone boxes and smoke fags, not go and look at the sea. Now, you can’t keep me away from the bloody cliffs! I’m always going walking, wild swimming, wherever you can find a bit of water.
I went walking in Cornwall and found the most beautiful pools, rock pools that were like Mediterranean springs. And all along there was this feeling of standing on the threshold of a beautiful world that had possibilities, that didn’t include being with the wrong person in this council flat, and buying a house with him which was going to make it better. Neither was this fling with a thickish, lovely actor, or staying in a stately home with a beautiful garden while we were doing the play.
I started to understand what was most important to me. And because I felt I’d done a good job with that play, and that I also had some sense of yes, this might be what I do for the next few years, I respected myself as an actress for the first time, instead of thinking I was just pissing about and that I was just good at mimicking people and wasn’t good at anything else.
When I was young, I thought a grown up was someone who was happily married, with children, and probably lived on a farm. And look at me now! Divorced, living in London – though with three children.
And I dress like I’m 15 years old! I wear shorts with leggings and stupid tee shirts and zip up tops with leather jackets and high top shoes. I don’t wear sensible clothes for my age. And I nearly got banned from festivals for listening to music too loud in my car. There is definitely a wild side to me now, but I wasn’t wild in my younger years, I’ve become wild.
I normally feel pretty good about how I look if I exercise and I keep fit. When I am feeling a bit scuzzy and hung over, then I look rough. My face represents what I’ve been through, so while I’m not always happy with how I look, there are times when I go, ‘Yeah, hey, looking pretty good!’
I can feel old sometimes when I’m weighed down by worries and I’m thinking and doing bills in my head. When that happens I feel like an old spinster at the kitchen table with my sums and my bitten nails. Then I look at myself and say, ‘You dried out old spinster hag. Look at you, doing your sums in your kitchen with your fucking cat.’ But also, I’m quite childlike in that I adore children. I will spend more time at a big lunch party probably playing with the children than sitting talking to the grown ups.
I don’t feel like a grown up. I really, really don’t. When I’m around my mum I’m a complete child – even on her deathbed she’ll be ordering me around. Maybe it’s good to keep your childlike spirit. Maybe if you feel young it informs the way you think about life.